George Lucas Educational Foundation
George Lucas Educational Foundation

Deepening Academic Understanding With Tangible Experiences

By providing middle school students a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes, teachers can help them develop empathy—and a stronger connection to content.

November 15, 2023

Books offer the opportunity to step into someone else’s world, and middle school ELA teacher Jennifer Montgomery’s seventh-grade class did just that during their book study of Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water. In a Socratic seminar, students discussed how the author builds empathy for the characters, whose lives are playing out during two different time periods in Sudan. But to bring the book’s themes to life for her classroom in Eminence, Kentucky, Montgomery had her middle school students do their own walk—traveling a mile while carrying a jug filled with water. In the discussion that followed, students shared their own reflections and insights, emerging from this exploration with a stronger sense of empathy—and a solid experience of perspective-taking that will stick with them for years to come.

To learn more about the research behind the practices seen in the video, check out the links below. 

Schools That Work

Eminence Independent Schools

Public, Rural
Grades K–12
Eminence, KY

Edutopia developed the Making Learning More Playful series with support from The LEGO Foundation.

Share This Story

  • email icon

Filed Under

  • Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Student Engagement
  • English Language Arts
  • 6-8 Middle School
0 / 0

Follow Edutopia

  • facebook icon
  • twitter icon
  • instagram icon
  • youtube icon
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use

George Lucas Educational Foundation

Edutopia is a free source of information, inspiration, and practical strategies for learning and teaching in preK-12 education. We are published by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.
Edutopia®, the EDU Logo™ and Lucas Education Research Logo® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.